Adio Kerida (Dir. Ruth Behar)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat May 24 18:37:54 MDT 2003

*****   Adio Kerida
Produced and Directed by Ruth Behar

Adio Kerida is a personal documentary about the search for identity 
and history among Sephardic Jews with roots in Cuba. The title is 
borrowed from a Sephardic love song in order to highlight the themes 
of expulsion, departure, and exile that are at the crux of the 
Sephardic legacy. At the same time, the title invokes the creative 
energy that is injected into a culture when it crosses racial, 
ethnic, and national lines. It also has a personal dimension and 
references the desire for reconciliation between the filmmaker and 
her Sephardic father.

Intimate interviews with Sephardic Jews in Cuba and Cuban Miami, as 
well as family stories, are meshed with probing footage of 
dilapidated Jewish cemeteries and new Judaic rituals in Cuba to 
create a filmic memoir that offers a uniquely poetic and humanistic 
anthropological vision.

Adio Kerida begins with the Cuban-born filmmaker's own search for 
memory in Cuba. Having left as a child, she cannot remember Cuba. So 
she returns over and over to the island to see what she can learn 
about herself and "her people" in the Cuba of today. She discovers 
that the one thousand Jews remaining on the island, almost all of 
them Sephardic, are constantly being observed, photographed, filmed, 
and given charity by Jewish tourists from the United States who have 
recently discovered the exotic tribe of "Castro's Jews" and want to 
see them in action before they disappear.

As a Cuban Sephardic Jew herself, the filmmaker refrains from 
treating the Jews on the island as a sad group of castaways and 
delves deeply into the way the members of the Sephardic Jewish 
community in Cuba bring meaning, joy, song, and laughter to their 
everyday lives. While the filmmaker's story informs her journey, it 
never overpowers the stories of her protagonists, each of whom is 
seen as an individual with his or her compelling quest to create an 
identity out of the mixture of Cuban and Sephardic cultural elements.

Conversion, intermarriage, and cultural mixing, or mestizaje, are 
recurrent themes in the stories. The cinematography and the narrative 
are juxtaposed with music that transcends the history being told with 
Afro-Cuban drumming, Jewish liturgical music, Sephardic love songs, 
tangos, boleros, oud solos, flamenco, Cuban salsa, and American jazz. 
The diverse range of forms embraced by Cuban Sephardim becomes a 
vivid presence in the documentary. Song, music, and dance emerge as a 
vital necessity in the lives of the Sephardic Jews of Cuba.

In Cuba, we hear the voices of Afro-Cuban children who affirm their 
Sephardic heritage, adult men and women who were hidden Jews and have 
returned to their faith through conversion, and elderly Jews who 
celebrate Che Guevara's legacy, sing tango songs and love songs, and 
explore the fine line between forgetting and remembering.

In Miami, we hear from sellers of good luck charms, a gay hairdresser 
who celebrates the marriage of his Cuban Sephardic mother and Cuban 
Catholic father, a belly-dancer who merges flamenco, Afro-Cuban, and 
Turkish traditions, and the aging former rabbi of the Sephardic 
community of Havana.

And at the end of the journey, the video daringly explores the life 
of the filmmaker herself as she returns home. We follow her as she 
learns family secrets from her Sephardic relatives in Miami, then 
moves on to an encounter with her Sephardic father, who distrusts her 
motives in making the film, and finally see her interacting with her 
brother, a jazz musician who questions the purpose of anthropology 
and her hunger to travel to other places.

Issues of diversity and multiculturalism are presented through an 
examination of Jewish identity as it merges with Cuban and Latino 
identity. Stereotypes and mainstream images of both Jews and Latinos 
are challenged by showing that Jews can be Latinos and Latinos can be 

Sephardic Jews view themselves as Hispanic people who are connected 
to both the Arab and African worlds because of their history of 
cultural and emotional interpenetration with those worlds. They 
descend from the Jewish populations expelled by the Spanish 
Inquisition in the fifteenth century. "Sepharad" means Spain in 

Sephardic Jews are notable for having clung with a passion to their 
nostalgia for Spain and their love for the Spanish language, despite 
having been forced to leave Spain because of their ethnic and 
religious identity. They are misunderstood and often discriminated 
against by the mainstream Eastern European Jewish world, which can 
only imagine Jewish identity in terms of the novels of Philip Roth 
and the movies of Woody Allen.

Beyond the Jewish world, Sephardic Jews are virtually unknown as a 
community and they are almost invisible in the contemporary world of 
literature and the arts. The Cuban Sephardic community, both on and 
off the island, offers so rare a mix of cultural traditions--Spanish, 
Turkish, African, Jewish, Cuban, and American--that it remains a 
mystery and has not yet been portrayed in any depth in literature, 
art, or film.

Adio Kerida is a story of continuing diasporas and intercultural 
adaptations. Thus, when the filmmaker's mother blissfully digs her 
teeth into a mango synonymous with the flavor and the scent of a Cuba 
she left behind, we are reminded of Proust's madeleine, and led to 
reflect on the search for a lost time that continues to leave its 
mark on the fleeting moments of the present.

En Español: <>

<>   *****

About Ruth Behar: <>.

Order _Adio Kerida_ at <>.

* Calendars of Events in Columbus: 
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